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Bar Owner: Denver Firefighters' Behavior 'Shocking, Appalling, Frightening'

By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)- A Denver bar owner has filed a complaint with the Denver Fire Department, claiming a group of off-duty firefighters drank illegally in his establishment and when he asked them to leave, they not only refused but taunted, bullied and insulted him.

"It was shocking," said Stuart Jensen, co- owner of Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market at 2669 Larimer Street.

Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market
Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market (credit: CBS)

He said the incident unfolded one morning within the last week. When he arrived at work about 9 a.m., he said a group of a half dozen off-duty firefighters were sitting at a community table, drinking liquor that they had brought into the market.

"They were very loud and vulgar, to the point of causing other patrons to become uneasy," wrote Jensen.

Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market
The table at the Curio Bar where the firefighters sat (credit: CBS)

He said he eventually approached them "and politely told them that they could not drink in our space and that they needed to leave."

He said the firefighters refused, saying they had ordered food and were going to stay and eat.

After a few minutes, Jensen said he approached the men again and told them they needed to leave and if they did not, he would call the police.

Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market
Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market (credit: CBS)

"As a bar owner, we are in constant fear of violating our liquor license. There are undercover stings and severe consequences that result from us violating our terms in any way. The fact that a group of government employees would come into my business and behave in a manner that clearly violates those terms, and then insult us when we try to take recourse, is unacceptable."

Jensen says one of the group shouted at him, "Don't you eyeball me, man!" which prompted Jensen to call Denver police.

Denver Police Department Badge Generic
(credit: CBS)

Before officers arrived, Jensen says another group of six firefighters, in uniform, arrived and joined the first group, shaking hands, laughing about the situation and making it clear they had no intention of leaving.

He says one of the firefighters put his hands in the air and joked, "Oh, are you here to arrest me?!"

Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market
Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market (credit: CBS)

Jensen said several of the firefighters taunted him, "asking me if I really thought the police were going to show up."

One firefighter approached Jensen, according to his account, said he had been a firefighter for 23 years "and that police were not going to do anything to make them leave."

He said the heckling and taunting continued.

Jensen said eventually the firefighters left "waving at me and hollering insults. This was loud and aggressive enough that three men having drinks at the bar took out their cell phones and said, 'This is just in case I have to call 911.'"

Stabbing denver fire
Denver Fire Department Headquarters (credit: CBS)

Jensen said when Denver police did arrive, they were "kind and professional and apologized for not being able to get there sooner."

In a letter he sent to city officials and obtained by CBS4, Jensen wrote, "My frustrations with this situation are first, that government employees who are certainly fully knowledgeable about the illegality of bringing alcohol into my bar would do it so brazenly. Second, that when asked to leave they refused, which to my understanding makes them trespassers. Third, that they had such little respect for myself and my staff that they felt the need to heckle and bully us. The fact that more government employees showed up and joined them in celebrating their blatant disregard for the terms of our liquor license is shocking, appalling and to be honest, frightening."

Curio Bar located within Denver's Central Market
The surveillance camera at the Curio Bar (credit: CBS)

Jensen said a surveillance camera in the market caught everything on tape and he said he has shared the tape with the Denver Fire Department. Jensen said the tape corroborates his account of what happened, but he declined to provide a copy of the tape to CBS4 saying he wants to first see the outcome of the city investigation.

Gregory Pixley, a spokesperson for the Denver Fire Department, said his department has launched an investigation and Denver police are also investigating possible criminal issues.

"Based on the information provided thus far, an internal investigation was opened to determine the facts of the incident," said Pixley.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.</e

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